How to Prevent or Slow Down the Progression of Childhood Myopia or Short-sightedness

Myopia is a condition in which a person cannot see distant objects clearly. In children, it is caused by focusing on near objects like books and electronic devices for long periods. Prolonged near work causes the spasm of the focusing muscle or ciliary muscle in the eye. This is also associated with irreversible elongation of the eye and hence myopia.

Myopia cannot be reversed or cured. But there are some steps which parents can take to prevent or slow down the progression of myopia. They should teach children to:

  • Ensure good lighting when doing near work.
  • Take vision breaks of 5 to 10 minutes after every 30 to 45 minutes of near work,
  • Hold reading/writing material minimum 30cm away from eyes,
  • Sit about 50 cm from computer,
  • Don’t read lying down,
  • Sleep early,
  • Daily outdoor activities, and
  • Avoid reading materials with small font/faded print as more effort is needed to focus on the words resulting in eyestrain.

Research done by Singapore National Eye Centre and Singapore Eye Research Institute have highlighted the role of low-dose (0.01%) atropine in slowing down the progression of myopia.

The effect of low-dose atropine appears to build over time, being better in the second than first year. As it causes minimal increase in pupil size, children do not require tinted or progressive add glasses.

As such, low-dose (0.01%) atropine is safer and it is a more comfortable eyedrop to use than higher-dose atropine (1%, for example). However, some myopia progression may still occur, and if this is till rapid, we may need to discuss if your child needs a higher dose atropine.

[Image by Luis Romero/ CC BY 2.0]

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